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Banff council considering expanding mandatory mask bylaw to Bear Street

Banff council will hold a special meeting on Friday (Aug. 14) to consider expanding the mandatory mask bylaw to Bear Street
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Bear Street construction on Thursday (June 4). EVAN BUHLER RMO PHOTO⁠

BANFF – Banff's elected officials are considering expanding the outdoor area in the downtown core where masks are mandatory to include Bear Street.

Council received an update Monday (Aug. 10) from administration on the mandatory mask bylaw, which came into effect July 31 and includes the 100 and 200 blocks of Banff Avenue. 

Town manager Kelly Gibson said administration is happy with the uptake in mask wearing in the community overall, with close to full compliance along the two blocks of Banff Avenue.

"We are seeing those masks stay on outside of the zone," Gibson said. "It is definitely not as high of compliance, but many people are leaving them on outside the zone, which is great to see." 

He told council that more people visiting the community are bringing their own masks. The weekend prior to the bylaw coming into place, Banff's COVID-19 ambassadors handed out 6,600 masks, while over the long weekend they handed out 3,800. This past weekend, Gibson said they distributed 2,000. 

Banff's director of emergency management Silvio Adamo said no tickets have been issued under the temporary mask bylaw and along Banff Avenue, close to 90 per cent of people are wearing masks.

"Alberta's COVID-19 numbers are slowly starting to trend in a downward direction," he added.

As of Tuesday (Aug. 11), Banff has zero confirmed cases of the coronavirus. Banff and the MD of Bighorn were also at zero cases. 

While neither Gibson or Adamo were recommending changes to the bylaw, council received correspondence that requested it consider a few different locations.

Councillor Ted Christensen said he would like to see the bylaw expanded to include Bear Street. A motion to direct administration to bring back a bylaw to amend the legislation was approved by council unanimously.

"In retrospect, I think we should have added Bear Street from the beginning," said Coun. Brian Standish. "The public areas on Bear Street are very narrow and it is difficult to navigate with a two metre separation." 

Coun. Peter Poole said with many doctor's offices located on that street, he "thinks it is the right thing to do." 

Coun. Grant Canning suggested the entire downtown core be looked at for inclusion in the bylaw, but was not able to get council's support for the idea.

Gibson said because Bear Street is small and already closed to vehicle traffic due to upgrades being done along the roadway to turn it into a pedestrian focused streetscape. Adding it to the mask bylaw would be relatively easy. 

"If we go bigger, though, we would have to do another legal review," Gibson said. 

Council voted to hold a special meeting on Friday (Aug. 14) to consider an amending bylaw. 


Tanya Foubert

About the Author: Tanya Foubert

Tanya Foubert started as a news reporter at the Rocky Mountain Outlook in 2006. She won the Canadian Community Newspaper Award for best news story for her coverage of the 2013 flood. In December 2018, she became editor of the Outlook.
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